Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World


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Gender Equity in Athletics and Sports

She had with her the few things she was allowed to bring: an inexpensive watch, her wedding band, small silver stud earrings, a Bible. Before she passed through the heavy metal doors, Jones looked back at Thompson.

Marion Jones: Hail Marion

And as she watched him drive away, she felt a surge of anxiety. It was the culmination of one of the most dramatic and tangled descents of a sports hero. Years after adamant denials of doping, Jones pleaded guilty in to lying to a federal agent about taking performance-enhancing drugs during the Olympics. Within a few days, the United States Anti-Doping Agency banned her for two years from track-and-field competition, and representatives from the U. Her track-and-field times from the Games onward were wiped from the record books — as if she never existed.

That first day in the minimum-security prison, Jones was determined that other inmates not see her in tears, so she went out to the prison track.

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Eventually she would buy sneakers and several pairs of shorts and T-shirts from the prison commissary. But on that day, she wore what penitentiary officials gave her after taking away her clothes: a pair of cotton slipper shoes, a worn T-shirt and pants several sizes too short. Then she started running.

As she circled the track, she looked up to see dozens of prisoners standing on a balcony and at the windows of the dining hall, watching their new inmate. On a Saturday morning in March, almost exactly 18 months after she was released from prison, Marion Jones was sprinting again.

This time, she was on a basketball court in Tulsa, Okla. For six months, she had been quietly training for this moment: her best — and most likely her only — shot at a second athletic career, in this case with the W. Jones is not new to basketball. As a freshman point guard for the University of North Carolina, she led her team to the N.

But that was in She is now 34 and the mother of three children, the youngest of whom she gave birth to just 10 months ago. On top of that, she is coming off an ankle injury that kept her away from the court for several weeks. If she lands a spot in the W. Those numbers and the idea of critics scoffing at her odds of success only motivate Jones. Still, this is not the Marion Jones body of the Olympics, when her thighs, her shoulders, her arms rippled with waves of muscle.

She was 10 years younger then. She trained harder and longer; five hours a day, six days a week. Richardson, the coach and general manager for the W. As one player hurled the ball the length of the court, Jones took off down the left lane: her legs reached out in long strides, her angled arms sliced the air, her long narrow fingers spread like fans. Jones caught the ball, drove hard to the basket and laid the ball gently against the glass. Then she turned to defense. Over the next hour, none of the other women were as aggressive or as hungry as Jones.

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4: Marion Jones - 10 Surprising Bankrupt Athletes | HowStuffWorks

None were as winded either. About 40 minutes into the tryout, the something women were walking off their fatigue. Meanwhile, Jones stood by herself, sucking in air. She bent over, resting her fingertips on a basketball, then squatted to the floor. She put her head down for a moment, drew in a few more breaths and slowly made her way back onto the court.

Marion Jones first became an international sensation during the Olympics in Sydney. She was 24 and had appeared in nearly a dozen national TV and print ads. Her face was on the covers of Newsweek, Time and Sports Illustrated. And a year later, she would become the first athlete to make the cover of Vogue — barefoot in a form-fitting red sequined gown clinging to her muscular thighs. Before Jones, Olympic heroines tended to be diminutive figure skaters and gymnasts. Well before the Olympics, she claimed she would take home more gold medals than any athlete in history.

During her first Olympic race, the meter sprint, the gun fired, and Jones exploded out of the blocks. Soon all she could hear was the sound of her own spikes hitting the track. She won in In the coming days, she went on to win a gold medal in the meter sprint as well as in the 4-bymeter relay; a bronze in the 4-bymeter relay and one in the long jump. Hunter, a world-champion shot-putter, was banned from the games after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Few fingers pointed at Jones, though she and her husband used the same trainer.

But the words of one TV announcer during her meter race proved prescient.


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On a warm Texas afternoon in January, I met Jones, along with her husband and three children, at a park near her house in suburban Austin. She was wearing a zip-up dark blue hoodie and jeans, her hair pulled back in a scrunchy. When Jones is not training, her life revolves around her kids and husband she now goes by her married name, Jones-Thompson.

She has few close friends in Austin and no other family there. Her mother is in North Carolina; her in-laws are in Barbados; her trusted friends from her U. When other women try to befriend Jones in the park, she is gracious but often wary. As she picked up her 7-month-old daughter, Eva-Marie, from her stroller, along with her bottle of formula, Jones said that until recently she pumped breast milk several times a day, including while sitting in the gym parking lot in her car, before and after basketball training.

But as Jones built more muscle, she had to supplement with formula. Monty does not know yet that his mother went to prison. It has to be hard for Jones to tell her son that she was an Olympic star, when his next question might be: Can I see your medals?

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When Marion was a kid, her toys were sticks and balls, not dolls, and as with Tiger and Andre, there are stories aplenty about Marion the post-toddler prodigy. A feisty little girl, she could outrace any boy in the L. She was special and knew it. At age 5 in , she watched Diana marry Charles on TV and asked about the red carpet. Her mom told her the carpet was rolled out for important people. She does not speak to her father, and her relationship with her mother, also named Marion, is delicate.

As she describes it, "What happened there was I got injured, and without sports I got depressed. I moved away from my mom emotionally, and in college I drifted further. We still don't have the typical mother-daughter relationship where she's baking me cookies, but we're comfortable. I love her, and she loves me, and we're fine.

In a few particularly painful instances, Marion would head into Los Angeles to seek out her dad at the Laundromat where he worked. She would spot him in his office, then be told he wasn't around. She'd look again, and he'd be gone. When Marion's stepfather Ira Toler died of a stroke in , the year-old was left with no father and no father figure. She has often said that given the chance, "I would have been a daddy's girl," and she sometimes wonders if she won all those trophies to impress a man she never knew.

It's a nonfactor. Hunter, the man she married, fills that paternal void. Already separated from his wife, he soon separated from the university because it barred coaches from dating athletes. Jones sees the lb. She says, "Being able to speak to young people and share my experiences, it almost makes it all worth it.

Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World
Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World
Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World
Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World
Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World
Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World
Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World
Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World Marion Jones: The Fastest Woman in the World

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